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Religion and Spirituality, Science and Philosophy Use this forum to discuss what you believe in. This is a place where everyone may share their views freely.

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AeonycRiot Offline
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Coming out to my family as an atheist? - March 25th 2014, 04:12 AM

Hey guys,hows it going? Kinda new to TeenHelp,first thread asking for help here. I'll be honest : I kinda need it.

So I'm 17, almost done with my senior year of high school, and for a few years now I've been having problems with my views on religion. Ever since I was about 13 or so, I've sort of given up religion. I personally know what I believe...I normally refer to myself as an atheist, though some may say my beliefs lean more towards just being agnostic, but at the very least I'm just simply not religious. I've decided that for myself already.

My problem is that despite the fact that I've held to my atheistic beliefs for years now, very few people know that I am one. And considering the fact that I live in the "Bible Belt" of the U.S., being anything other than a devout Christian is a huge thing. I grew up in a very Christian family. Both of my parents were raised as strict Catholics, though they and most of my aunts/uncles are non-denominational now. They didn't really "force" religion on me, but from what I can tell, they just assumed I would never question it.

When I was 15,I was able at least tell my dad. I didn't fully come out as an atheist, but I told him I no longer really believed in Christianity,or any religion for that matter. He told me that my older brother did the exact same thing at my age, and now he's a devout Baptist. He believes that I'm just going through a rebellious phase right now and that later in my life I'm going to have questions that the "non-spiritual" part of life won't have answers to. So simply put,he didn't take me seriously, and I still don't think he does.

Other than my Dad, none of my family knows that I'm atheist, and only a handful of my friends know(And I only tell them because I know they're not religious either). At this point,I'm tired of having to live a lie. I'm not saying I'm forced to go to church, but my family has had a few funerals in the past few years, and every time I go to the church that the deceased family member went to, I feel horrible that I'm pretending to be a part of the same faith as all the other people grieving. Last year at my grandmother's funeral, I looked around the pews as the pastor was saying a prayer,and I thought to myself : "I'm lying to every single one of these people right now. How would all my grandmother's catholic friends feel right now if they knew an atheist was sitting in their church with them?"

I'm just terrified to tell anyone right now. My mother and aunt would be completely mortified to find out their son/nephew is an "evil,immoral atheist"(I know that sounds crazy, but that's quite literally what they'd think of me). Half my friends at school would ostracize me. And aside from the friends I've already made over the past 4 years,I'm afraid to make friends with anyone else, in fear of them also ostracizing me. And I don't even wanna think about how it'll affect my relationships and dating in the future(Something I also haven't even tried to bother with throughout high school).

I'm not sure what I should do at this point. It doesn't feel right lying to everyone around me like this, but at the same time it also doesn't feel right not telling them at all. If anyone at all has advice, I'd really appreciate it. Doesn't matter if you're religious or not, or whatever religion you belong to if you are. Whatever I can do to find out how I can keep my relationship with my friends and family together, and how I can keep future relationships from being very awkward....that's what I need to figure out.
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Re: Coming out to my family as an atheist? - March 25th 2014, 06:04 AM

Hey there.

I also come from a religious family and recently have been interested in learning about different religions and beliefs. Although I do believe in Christianity, I do not feel like my religion is the only truth out there. I have friends who range from Catholic to atheist and I enjoy hearing about what they believe in(as long as they dont try too hard to push their beliefs on me).

I think that it is important for you to tell the truth to your family. Having to keep your real feelings a secret can be really stressful, especially if it isnt widely accepted to those around you.

First of all, you need to serious about telling your family that you are atheist. You need to make sure that they know this something that you have put a lot of thought into and not just a passing teen phase. Once they understand that this is how you really feel, Im sure they will do everything they can to convince you otherwise but make sure to stand firm in your decision to prove to them that you are committed.

Telling your friends may be a little harder as sometimes you cant tell how they might react to this situation. But I hope they will value your friendship over whatever religious belief you have.

I wish the best for you and would like to know how everything turned out.
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Re: Coming out to my family as an atheist? - March 25th 2014, 07:47 AM

First of all, be firm and stand your ground in whatever path you choose to take. If you choose to tell your family, be firm as I said earlier. Make it clear that you are a different person from your brother (mainly towards your dad). I'm sure they will try to argue and sway you back into their zone of spirituality, but only you know yourself best. It will be easier telling your friends in the sense that if a "friend" places more value in your exterior religious beliefs than your interior character, they aren't (and probably never were) really a friend at all. It will be an easy way to weed off superficial friends, but that's beyond the point. Personally, I would tell at least your family and just get it over with, as portraying lies and keeping secrets will only ever lead to portraying more lies and keeping more secrets. Nonetheless, I want this to be your decision and your decision alone. I'd certainly be interested in hearing how this goes over for you.

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Re: Coming out to my family as an atheist? - March 26th 2014, 07:16 PM

You say you are living a lie and that you are lying to everyone around you. Unless you are pretending to be a devout Christian that goes door to door trying to pass on the word of God, then you aren’t really lying to anyone. Going to church doesn’t make you any more Christian than going to a library makes you a librarian. And by being atheist it’s not as if you are defying a different God by going to church. Personally, I suggest holding off on telling your family. You are probably still living at home and if you telling your family that you are not Christian will make your life in any way harder, I wouldn’t take that route just yet. Soon you will be on your own and you can tell your family how you feel and be able to go back to your house where you won’t have to live with the outcome. Plus, this way, you will be more ‘credible’ in their eyes about your feelings on religion. You will be living on your own as a grown man. Not to say that your feelings are not credible now, but in these cases it’s always best to wait until you are a bit older if you think confessing this will cause family issues. By living in a Christian household you are not hiding who you are or how you feel. You are just keeping things to yourself. It doesn’t change who you are, or what you think. So if telling your family right now will be extremely difficult, I don’t see the reason to put yourself through that right now. That’s my take.

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Re: Coming out to my family as an atheist? - March 27th 2014, 02:21 AM

I recommend not biting the hand that feeds till you can support yourself. Meaning if you rely on them for any support at all, don't tell. Seriously. Yes your dad was supportive but if there is a huge blowout, do you want to risk losing support or being able to go to college?

There is a give and take system that is important to consider. Unless you're 100% sure you can afford to do whatever you want to do on your own and support yourself, then don't tell them. If you rely on them for something as simple as financial aid for college or a room to stay in, then don't tell them. Tell them only when you are prepared to take control of your life 100%.

Yes it is living a lie but it is better than finding out you are unable to go to college because a parent chooses to withhold financial information or they refuse to cosign a loan.

Also, how involved are you in religion? If you can, start to distance yourself slowly. I do not make religion a big part of my life and so no one knows. I work for a Catholic Hospital and no one knows or cares that I am an atheist because I don't let that term define me. I am me at the end of the day.
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Re: Coming out to my family as an atheist? - March 27th 2014, 04:28 PM

I think when I said I was living a lie,I meant more than I'm tired of letting everyone assume I'm still a Christian. When I was young,I believed everything my parents told me without question. I'm not saying they're wrong, but I didn't think for myself very much.

I mean, nowadays my parents know that I think for myself on alot of different things. We live in northern Louisiana so everyone around us, like our family, and my friends at school, are all into country-lifestyle things and also sports, whereas I'm more interested in technology and gaming. Most of my family likes country music, I like things like alternative rock and pop music. Most of my family members either didn't go to college, or went to college just to get a degree for a simple career that they could pursue while still staying within Louisiana, while I'm planning on going to college to major in things like computer science or cyber engineering and planning to work somewhere else in the country. So it's pretty obvious I'm almost a completely different person from my peers.

But my atheism is the one thing they don't know about yet. My dad somewhat knows, but at the moment, I think he's trying to fool himself into thinking that I'm leaning towards being a christian again. With my dad,I'm not so worried about his reaction towards me coming out,since he already knows, I'm just more worried about crushing his hopes. Despite the fact that my parents don't go to church anymore,and they never made me go, they just always believed without question that I'd always be as religious as they are without thinking about anything else critically. Right now, it seems like they're still under that same assumption, so I'm not lying I guess. More like leading them on.

And my family's not violent or hateful, so I think that even if I did come out, they wouldn't punish me. But I'm afraid that they'll be scared of me, or think of me as a completely different person. My mother, and my aunts and uncles already have a tough time relating to me and making conversation with me, because there's literally nothing we have in common. They're afraid to talk to me about almost anything because they're afraid they'll say something offensive about my hobbies and likes. Telling them that the religious beliefs I have are also different gives them another thing they're afraid to talk to me about. I'm already "not a normal person" when compared to the rest of the people that live in the southern part of the United States, so coming out as a person that's not "Whole-heartedly,devoutly Christian" makes me even more of an alien to them. I'm more worried about becoming socially distant from my family rather than actually being punished by them and losing their support, so I guess it's more of an emotional problem.
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